DOBSON — Thousands of athletes, spectators and volunteers are set to converge on North Surry High School on April 26 for the 35th annual Special Olympics of Surry County Spring Games.
Organizers say the event will get under way with opening ceremonies at 9 a.m., and note that the annual games is a special day for participants.
“This year, once again Sheriff Graham Atkinson will do the torch run with some of his deputies and Special Olympics athletes during opening ceremonies,” said Chrystal Whitt, assistant local coordinator and one of the organizers of the annual games.
In addition, this year’s opening ceremonies will feature the North Surry High School Choir, who will be joined by special needs athletes to perform the National Anthem.
Among the more than 300 athletes expected this year are delegations from every school in the county’s three school districts, group homes and individual participants, Whitt said.
“They don’t have to be in a group home or a school to participate,” she said. “Just give us a call at the county’s recreation department and we’ll set it up so they can come.”
Once again, North Surry High School will be providing “buddies,” or traditional students who work with a specific athlete throughout the day.
“The buddy system supports unity between traditional students and the special needs athletes,” Whitt said.
And she said she expects thousands to converge on the school for the event.
“We already have over 1,200 people registered to be there, not counting spectators and others who come out to support the athletes during their special day,” Whitt said.
The events include something for all skill levels, from a wheelchair roll and a 25-meter walk to the traditional running long jump and 100-meter dash.
And for a first, Olympic Town — a place Whitt called a “station of fun” for the athletes — will feature a race car and race car driver.
“The Olympic Town is basically a place where the athletes can go when they’re not competing and rest and have fun,” she said, noting that organizers do everything in their power to make it a special day for competitors.
“Everything about the spring games is about them, not us, not the volunteers,” she said emphatically. “It’s all about the athletes and we work very hard each year to make it the best day it can ever be for them.”
Registration for this year’s spring games ended Monday, and a fax machine noisily rolled out registration forms.
“We’re just getting the last bit of paperwork and finalizing the roster of participants at this point,” she said as the fax machine rang once more.
Corporate donors like Sheetz, Phillips-Van Heusen and Food Lion, to name just a few, also will be providing support for the hundreds of athletes.
“There are more sponsors than I can remember right now, all of whom work tirelessly to make the event a success,” Whitt said.
This year’s Special Olympics is set to run until noon or a little after, she added.
“We plan and work for months for this four-hour program to make it as special and the best it can be,” she said. “The spring games will be the biggest day of the year for the athletes, most of whom don’t participate in sports outside of the Special Olympics.”
Reach Keith Strange at firstname.lastname@example.org or 719-1929.